Vitamins for skincare

Vitamins, both water-soluble ones and fat-soluble ones, help in caring for the skin. Here is a list of vitamins, their benefits for the skin and the natural dietary sources

Yes, we know that food itself is vital for life, but I’m talking about those talented little fellows called vitamins and minerals.

supplement tabletsThe former are designated by various alphabets, the latter by names, but the A to Z of it is that they are gems when it comes to bringing a glow to the skin. While it may be argued that vitamins and minerals could also be classified under antioxidants, they are important enough to merit a closer look in terms of the wonders they can do to the skin.

Vitamins are classically divided into those that are water soluble and those that are fat soluble. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are therefore thrown out of the body daily. They can’t be stored by the body, so it is important to obtain them from our daily diet. These are Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C.

Fat-soluble vitamins are Vitamins A, D, E and K and these can be stored by the liver. They need to be taken only from time to time as an overdose of some of these vitamins may have side effects. However, a food which contains these vitamins, unless consumed in disproportionately large quantities, rarely causes harm. But if you decide to take a supplement of a fat-soluble vitamin, make sure you do it only under medical supervision.

Water-soluble vitamins

B the Best

one white eggVitamin B consists of a complex of vitamins. While each of these is important for optimum health, some are particularly beneficial for the skin.

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine helps keep the skin well-moisturized and supple. Deficiency of this vitamin can result in dermatitis, resulting out of dryness.

Dietary sources: brown rice, whole grains, eggs, potatoes and dairy.

Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin helps in maintaining the health of skin and mucous membranes. Along with thiamine, it provides a good defence mechanism against external assault.

Dietary sources: brown rice, whole grains, eggs, potatoes, dairy and pulses.

Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is necessary for the production of disease-fighting antibodies. Deficiency of this vitamin, though rare, is believed to contribute to repeated skin infections.

Dietary sources: green leafy vegetables, whole grains, eggs and dairy

Vitamin B7 or Biotin has been found to be particularly useful in maintaining healthy hair, nails and skin. Lack of biotin can lead to hairfall, brittle nails and dull skin.

Dietary sources: egg yolk, wheat, oats and nuts [walnuts, almonds]

Vitamin B9 [folic acid] and Vitamin B12 [methyl cobalamin] work in tandem to maintain various body functions optimally, especially those of the nervous system.

On the skin, they help to maintain the integrity of mucous membranes and prevent infections.

Dietary sources: Vitamin B9: spinach, beans, pulses B12: dairy products, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals

C The Difference

pomegranatesVitamin C is the real star of this vitamin cascade. It is vital for many body processes, including the absorption of iron by the body, maintenance of the cell walls of all organs, and the general health of the skin, cartilages and the linings of all the tissues in the body. It has potent anti-infective properties and is therefore crucial to the immune system too.

Specifically, with respect to the skin, Vitamin C is also a good lightening and anti-aging agent. It has potent antioxidant properties, and gets rid of the free radicals easily, making it a star in the anti-ageing arsenal. It is water soluble and therefore, should be included in the diet as much as possible as it is regularly thrown out of the body through urine. Also, large quantities of Vitamin C may be required for maximal anti-aging activity. This is also the reason why topical Vitamin C is becoming popular as it is readily absorbed through the skin.

Dietary sources: fresh citrus fruits, potatoes, pomegranates, green leafy vegetables

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamins need to be supplemented in small quantities every day for optimum health of the skin and body. They can be incorporated into various recipes

A Winner

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the skin, mucous membranes and epithelial linings. It is also required for the proper functioning of the visual system. Vitamin A, its derivatives and its forerunners [the compounds which actually help to form the vitamin], the carotenoids help in fighting infections like acne [pimples], epithelial disorders of skin and are excellent antioxidants. Because of its amazing skin properties, it can be called a ‘glow’ vitamin.

Vitamin A supplements must only be taken under strict medical supervision. Overdose can lead to hypervitaminosis A, characterized by excessive dryness of the skin, mouth and eyes. However, it can be supplemented beautifully in the diet as there are plenty of natural sources of this essential vitamin.

Dietary sources: orange and red fruits and vegetables, green vegetables, full fat dairy, sprouts

D Detox your skin

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. It exists in several forms, of which calciferol is most active. Once the vitamin has been ingested, the liver and kidneys act on it to convert it into a form that the body can use. There are several benefits of Vitamin D for your skin and body. It is essential for the formation of healthy and strong teeth, bones and nails, normalizing immune system, preventing early aging of the skin and preventing osteoporosis or bone degeneration.

The best source of this vitamin is simple exposure to sunlight. Basically, the sun’s rays contain ultraviolet light that act on unprotected skin [when you aren’t wearing sunscreen] and allows the skin to manufacture Vitamin D.

Although this is a very easy way to get Vitamin D into your body and reap its benefits, sun exposure must be controlled. Too much sun exposure leads to skin pigmentation and premature skin aging. Five to ten minutes of daily summer sun exposure on unprotected skin early in the morning provides enough ultraviolet light exposure to produce the required amount of the vitamin for the body.

Dietary sources: dairy products, cod liver oil, egg yolk and fortified breakfast cereals

E Power

Vitamin E consists of a group of compounds called tocopherols, which are important in maintaining healthy skin and hair and their deficiency leads to dryness, brittle nails and frizzy hair. Since it is a fat soluble vitamin, it is stored in the body and should be supplemented only under medical supervision. There are a large number of dietary sources from where it can be obtained and these should be included in the diet regularly.

Dietary sources: eggs, soya products, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, whole grains

Know your K

Vitamin K is the last of the fat-soluble vitamins. It is required for the normal coagulation of blood. It has the ability to lighten discolouration on the skin caused by haemoglobin. So it is used topically to reduce dark circles, bruises and certain pigmentation.

Vitamin K is abundantly available in nature and deficiency is very rare.

Dietary sources: It is found in green vegetables like lettuce and spinach, vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, in lentils, vegetable oils, butter and egg yolk to name just a few.
Topical Vitamin K creams are available in the market, which treat dark circles and prominent facial veins with moderate success.

skin deepExcerpted with permission from
Skin Deep: An Inside Out Approach to Looking Good, Naturally!;
Published by: Harpercollins India
Price: INR199

Aparna Santhanam
Dr Aparna Santhanam is a cosmetic dermatologist and hair specialist. She is also a Parachute Therapie Hair expert. She has an avid interest in holistic health and fitness. She loves combining modern medicine with traditional beliefs and remedies.


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